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Xbox Series S: release date, price, specs, rumors and what we want

Microsoft
Xbox Series S (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series S has finally been announced!

The Xbox Series X and the PS5 are perhaps the two most hotly anticipated devices of the year, but to quote Yoda, “There is another.” Rumors of a lower-powered, digital-only next-gen Xbox first identified as Lockhart and now known as the Xbox Series S have been floating around since last year. 

Now that we're on the cusp of holiday 2020, Microsoft has finally broken their silence and revealed the Xbox Series S. The price is a lot more reasonable than we thought, the specs are more powerful than expected and the design is a milky-white aesthetic that may or may not align in your taste.

We’ve rounded up all of the available news and rumors regarding the Xbox Series S and will walk you through everything there is to know about the all-digital next-gen console, including its price, release date, specs and what we would like to see from it.

Xbox Series S price

Microsoft

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series S costs $299. This is the same price tag that its predecessor, the Xbox One S, had at launch in 2016. As expected, the Series S is much cheaper than the Xbox Series X.  And thankfully, the Redmond-based tech giant kept up the trend and priced the Xbox Series X at $499 — just like it did four years ago for the current-gen model.  Its pricing is definitely competitive as the most powerful next-gen console thus far. We can't wait to see the PS5's price tag.

The Xbox Series S's $299 price fell in line with several rumors we've heard this year. One leak in March from Chinese tech site MyDrivers stated that the Xbox Series S will have a $300 starting price (bingo!). More recent rumors from a forum suggested that Microsoft will try to bring it in at half the price of the Xbox Series X, placing it in the $200 to $300 range, which was another accurate statement.

Xbox Series S release date

The one question you may be wondering is, "When will the Xbox Series S launch?" The Xbox Series S will be available for purchase on November 10.

The Xbox Series S release date was unveiled on Tuesday, Sept. 8 when Microsoft dropped a seductive trailer of the Xbox Series S. With snappy music and stunning visuals, Microsoft claimed that the Xbox Series S will have "next-gen performance in the smallest box ever."

The trailer also announced that the Xbox Series S will be smaller than the Xbox Series S, feature a custom NVME SSD (powered by Xbox Velocity Architecture), incredibly fast load times and seamless game switching.

Xbox Series S design and features

Microsoft

(Image credit: Microsoft)

If you ask the folks on Twitter, they'll tell you that the Xbox Series S looks like a washing machine. In my opinion, it looks like a refined, old-school stereo cloaked in a white finish. On the front, you'll find a power button, a sync button for the controller and a USB port.

It's a minimalist, safe design with an eye-catching circular black vent superimposed on a slim white body, but I like it. The console also lacks a disc drive since it is an all-digital console. Microsoft has been hawking Xbox Game Pass Ultimate during its next-gen console marketing campaign, so the Series S is a genius way to lock users into Microsoft's subscription services, including xCloud.

Using xCloud would eliminate concerns regarding the performance of the Xbox Series S as users with sufficient bandwidth could stream games beyond the capabilities of the hardware using xCloud. Our hands-on look at the xCloud beta showed that service is in pretty solid shape already. This would make the Xbox Series S similar to the Nvidia Shield but with far superior standalone performance for local games.

Xbox Series S specs

(Image credit: Xbox)

The Xbox Series X is the most powerful next-gen console, but that leaves open a lot of room between the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X. That is where the Xbox Series S is looking to fit in.

According to the world-premiere trailer that dropped in early September, the all-digital Xbox Series S will sport a custom 512GB SSD, 1440-pixel resolution at up to 120 frames per second, variable-rating shading, variable refresh rate, ultra-low latency, 4K streaming media playback and 4K upscaling for games.

The trailer didn't dive into the digital console's teraflops power, but one set of leaked specs suggested that four teraflops would be the performance target for the Xbox Series S, which is below the Xbox One X’s six teraflops, but over three times as powerful as the original Xbox One. Some subsequent rumors have claimed closer to five or six teraflops, but there is little to back that up.

The most credible set of specs for the Xbox Series S arrived from TweakTown in mid-August with a full breakdown of the expected hardware inside the Xbox Series S as compared to the Xbox Series X.

(Image credit: TweakTown)

As you can see the biggest difference comes with the GPU, dropping to 20 RDNA 2.0 compute units @ 1.550GHz compared to 52 RDNA 2.0 CUs @ 1.825GHz for the Xbox Series X. The CPU on the other hand is identical. 

The net result of the spec differences is a reduction from 4K 60fps and 8K support down to 1440p at 60fps, which will probably rule it out for big screen gamers, but is actually better than we were anticipating given the rumored cost of the Xbox Series S.

Xbox Series S: What we want

Xbox Series X Project xCloud Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Xbox)

Affordable: Assuming the relatively low-end specs are right, and the Xbox Series S is only about a third as powerful as the Xbox Series X, the pricing is going to have to be a huge part of the story for this product. This makes the $199 price point seem at least somewhat feasible as Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up against Sony in terms of market share. Drawing users into subscription plans with low-cost hardware seems like a long-term winning strategy.

Excellent digital service integration: Hand-in-hand with the affordability is how well the Xbox Series S can deliver Game Pass and xCloud content. While many gamers are digital-only thanks PC, console gamers are slightly less accustomed to the idea and, of course, lots of gamers don’t have the bandwidth for a great streaming experience with xCloud. It will be crucial for Microsoft to this experience as accessible as possible for those without access to extremely high-speed internet.

Next-gen frame rates: With this first version of the Xbox Series S, focusing on delivering a first-class 1440p experience is perfectly acceptable. We are still far from having a wealth of 4K content elsewhere that necessitates a 4K TV. When thinking of the target market for the Xbox Series S, it would make sense to forgo even trying to hit what would likely be a disappointing 4K at 30fps experience.